What is the meaning of the cross? On one hand we can find shelves and shelves of books parsing its theological complexity. On the other, young children “get it” and respond in genuine faith. Why Jesus had to die in this way, what God accomplished by it and how this changes our lives and destinies: these are mysteries into which the “angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12). This is why inhabiting the Paschal Triduum year after year will not grow tiresome; each cycle allows us to plumb more deeply and embrace more fully the terrible glory of the cross.
– Bobby Gross, “Living the Christian Year” (pp 163-164)
This morning I gathered with 45 InterVarsity students at the crack of dawn to watch the sun rise over a pristine Lake Michigan. It was a short and peaceful gathering, a balmy 50 degrees or so. We were remembering what happened on Good Friday, the arrest and crucifixion of Christ.
Good Friday and the memorials surrounding this weekend have been a yearly part of my entire life. That’s 25 Good Fridays, 25 Lents, 25 Easter Sundays. I remember as a kid being forced out of bed at 4:30 AM by my parents and dragged to Gillson Park for sunrise service only mildly enticed by the promise of a delicious walker bros. pancake breakfast at the end. I remember shivering in the cold air as unintelligible Korean prayers droned on for what seemed like eternity. After the service, I can still taste the Hobahk-Ju, a scalding yellow pumpkin juice, apparently a Korean delicacy, being forced down my throat by eager, loving Korean deaconesses.
I did not appreciate Good Friday then. I’m trying now. And I’m grateful that with each passing year, the mystery and wonder of this season seems to grow in my heart and mind.
This morning, four students from AAIV shared short devotionals from four movements of Good Friday: Liz shared from Jesus prayer for Himself, His disciples, all believers in John 17 and the power of prayer to connect us to the living God. Jenn shared about Jesus submission to authorities as an ultimate demonstration of His love. She asked us if we are submitted to God and if we are, for what reasons? Steve continued by sharing how Jesus not only submitted to the authorities but opposed evil and the principalities of the world. He challenged us to not only accept God’s love for ourselves, but demonstrate it into the world. And finally, Mike shared about the suffering and death of Jesus, and its implications for our lives.
It was a short and sweet time. And when we opened our eyes after the last song, the bright morning sun was shining in our faces. And there’s no way to describe a morning like that without bubbling cliches. It was perfect.
Believe me, God spoke powerfully. To me, through that morning, He was impressing upon me what it meant for Christ to face “soul crushing anguish” (Matthew 26:38) yet pressed forward into God’s purposes. I’ve had days of relative soul crushing anguish, yet pressing forward seemed so hard. But how much more anguish did Christ face in that Garden and on that Cross… and yet He obediently pushed on and on and on.
And as I sat somewhere between Jesus divine action and the reality of my inability, my soul lept and at that moment, I wanted to thank Jesus for doing something I could not, nor cannot, do. At that moment, I could honestly and whole-heartedly express my thanksgiving to Christ for not only pressing forward for my sin, but for the sins of humanity, all that is wrong, evil and broken in the world. I prayed that I would follow THAT Jesus and walk in His ways, a way I know I cannot walk on my own, but one that He has opened for me. I wasn’t spouting cliches, but the cry of my heart.
I’m excited for this weekend, and what else God has in store for me as I rehearse the paradoxically tragic and triumphant story of the death and resurrection of Christ. This morning has gotten things off to a fine start.
After the service, I called my mom who was just leaving the sunrise service at her own church. She’s been going with my pops every single day this week. I’m curious what they did for their service and if I’d respond to it the same way I did back when I was a petulant little elementary school boy. I’m also curious if they have any hobahk-ju to spare.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,he was crushed for our iniquities;the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,and by his wounds we are healed.